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The summer of 2020 may be looking a little different to the usual, but whatever you're planning to do you can't go wrong with kicking back and losing yourself in a good book
Whether you're staying home or heading to the beach or poolside, enjoy some downtime this summer and immerse yourself in our top fictional reads.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
This is Britain as you've never read it.
This is Britain as it has never been told.
From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl Woman Other follows a cast of twelve very different characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. They're each looking for something - a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . .
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clearsighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide 'physical, intellectual and moral training' which will equip its inmates to become 'honorable and honest men'.
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear 'out back'.
Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King's ringing assertion, 'Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.' But Elwood's fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.
The tension between Elwood's idealism and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.
The Bee Keeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Beautifully written, haunting tale. This is a beautiful book - starting with the cover and end plates and continuing with the story inside. It is about Nuri and Afra Ibrahim, who are originally from Aleppo. Nuri is a beekeeper with his cousin Mustafa, and Afra is an artist, they have a son called Sami. As their country becomes more and more war-torn; they make their escape, and journey towards a (hopefully) safer life.
There are two story strands within the book, one covering their current situation and the other covering their life in Aleppo and subsequent journey. Each chapter interweaves the two strands, starting with their present day and blending (through beautiful plate pages with joining words) into the past. The book highlights some of the harrowing situations that refugees face, from the effects of war and the loss of loved ones to unscrupulous smugglers to drug dealers and child exploitation.
Love In Color by Bolu Babalola
Join debut author Bolu Babalola as she retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with new incredible detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines iconic Greek myths, ancient legends from South Asia, and stories from countries that no longer exist in our world. Babalola is inspired by tales that truly show the variety and colours of love around the globe.
- A high-born Nigerian goddess feels beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover and longs to be truly seen.
- A young businesswoman attempts to make a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life.
- A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether to uphold her family's politics, or to be true to her heart.
Whether captured in the passion of love at first sight, or realising that self-love takes precedent over the latter, the characters in these vibrant stories try to navigate this most complex human emotion and understand why it holds them hostage.
Bolu takes a step in decolonising tropes of love by forming new stories from the wildly beautiful tales that already exist in so many communities and cultures. Moving exhilaratingly across perspectives, continents and genres, from the historic to the vividly current, Love in Colour is a celebration of romance in all of its forms
Get lost in these mystical worlds and see that love, like humanity, comes in technicolour.
Camelot by Giles Kristian
Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been seen these past ten years. Now, the Saxons are gathering again, their warbands stalk the land, their king seeks dominion. As for the lords and kings of Britain, they look only to their own survival and will not unite as they once did under Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur.
But in an isolated monastery in the marshes of Avalon, a novice of the order is preparing to take his vows when the life he has known is suddenly turned upside down in a welter of blood. Two strangers - the wild-spirited, Saxon-killing Iselle and the ageing warrior Gawain - will pluck the young man from the wreckage of his simple existence. Together, they will seek the last druid and the cauldron of a god. And the young man must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur's warriors: Lancelot.
For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot's son - the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive . . .
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents' money, it's called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she's not sure what to call it, but it involves:
- a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children;
- Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room;
- Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks;
- money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for 'kidnapping' the white child she's actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix's desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know - about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.
Independence Square by A.D Miller
Twelve years ago, Simon Davey prevented a tragedy, and ruined his own life.
Once a senior British diplomat in Kiev, he lost everything after a lurid scandal. Back in London, still struggling with the aftermath of his disgrace, he is travelling on the Tube when he sees her …
Olesya is the woman Simon holds responsible for his downfall. He first met her on an icy night during the protests on Independence Square. Full of hope and idealism, Olesya could not know what a crucial role she would play in the dangerous times ahead, and in Simon’s fate. Or what compromises she would have to make to protect her family.
When Simon decides to follow Olesya, he finds himself plunged back into the dramatic days which changed his life forever. Independence Square is a story of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times. It is a story about corruption and personal and political betrayals. It is a story about where, in the twenty-first century, power really lies.
Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Nine-year-old Jai watches too many reality cop shows, thinks he's smarter than his friend Pari (even though she always gets top marks) and considers himself to be a better boss than Faiz (even though Faiz is the one with a job). When a boy at school goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from episodes of Police Patrol to find him.
With Pari and Faiz by his side, Jai ventures into some of the most dangerous parts of the sprawling Indian city; the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But kids continue to vanish, and the trio must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.
I had no idea how to commit to another human being. I could barely commit to reading a magazine, and I wrote for magazines for a living. My specialist subject was celebrities, and my own relationships made their marriages look eternal. I'd never paid a household bill that didn't mention bailiffs, and my idea of exercise was to go and stand outside a famous person's house and stare until I'd convinced myself that I lived in it.
But my life in LA was happy; free of care and consequence. That was, until I came down to earth - with a bump.
So this is the story of how I staggered from partying in Hollywood to bringing up a baby in Piss Alley, Dalston; how I never did find a copy of What To Expect When You Weren't Even Fucking Expecting To Be Expecting, and why paternity testing is not a good topic for a first-date conversation.
People always said I'd find love where I least expected it. I always said they were idiots.